Hot water for sustainable heating to succeed

With its National Energy and Climate Plan, Austria aims to fully substitute fossil fuels in the heating sector with renewable energy sources and efficient district heating, and deep geothermal energy has a special role to play here. This refers to deposits of non-potable hot water located at a depth of 300 metres or more below the surface of the ground, which can be used to supply environmentally-friendly heating. 95 percent of Austria’s geothermal energy potential remains unexploited. If properly tapped, it could result in 600,000 t of CO2 being saved by 2030. Wien Energie is currently exploring what potential exists in the Greater Vienna metropolitan area as part of the GeoTief project.

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Background information

In order to meet the target set by the European Commission in the Clean Energy Package to increase the share of heating generated by renewable sources by one percent a year, it is very important for Austria to harness the potential of geothermal energy. This is why a commitment to support geothermal energy has been included in the #mission2030 strategy.

In contrast to near-surface geothermal energy, deep geothermal energy harnesses geothermal energy from hot water deposits or hots rocks located at a depth of 300 metres and more. The hot water deposits in Austria that can be utilised to produce district heating can be as far as several thousands of metres below the surface of the ground, with a chemical composition that makes them unsuitable for use as drinking water. Energy is produced from the thermal water by means of a production well that returns the water to the same deposit after the heat has been extracted at the surface, thus making the whole process a closed regenerative cycle.

  • Deep geothermal energy is suitable for producing heating and electricity in an environmentally-friendly way, as well as for storing heat. The currently known potential of deep geothermal energy that can be technically exploited in Austria is as much as 700 MW thermal. If fully utilised, it would be possible to save around 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
  • Deep geothermal energy is also a regional energy source, reducing dependency on energy imports and fossil fuels.
  • Deep geothermal energy is reliable and always available – regardless of the weather, season or time of day.
  • Deep geothermal energy has very little impact on the landscape or in terms of space requirements, is inexhaustible by human standards, and is able to provide heating and electricity over the long term and at stable prices.
  • As much as 25 percent of the total potential can be successfully harnessed by 2030 if the framework conditions for utilising deep geothermal energy are improved, enough to supply 500,000 households with geothermal district heating and enabling 600,000 tonnes of CO2 to be saved by not using fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal or oil.
  • This means that deep geothermal energy can contribute as much as 20 percent to the required reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (as per the National Climate and Energy Plan) and even as much as 76 percent by 2050 – if the district heating networks are also expanded.

Wien Energie has launched a pilot research project, GeoTief, to explore and survey the geological conditions to the east of Vienna, with a view to this serving as a basis for decisions on future investments measures when it comes to using deep geothermal energy. Vienna not only has one of the largest district heating networks in Europe, but it also has hot water deposits deep underground. These two factors create the best conceivable conditions for utilising deep geothermal energy. The research project could significantly increase the share of district heating in Vienna being produced by renewable sources and save around 250,000 tonnes of CO2 every year until 2030.

Theresia Vogel

“Studies show that Austria’s deep geothermal energy potential is between 450 and 700 megawatts. As much as 60 percent of this potential is attributed to Vienna because this is where there would be a corresponding number of customers in close proximity. The GeoTief research project carries out important fundamental research on how to harness this potential, thereby making a key contribution to the urban heating revolution.”

Theresia Vogel, General Manager of the Climate and Energy Fund (Klima- und Energiefonds)

Our demands

For the urban heating revolution to succeed, a comprehensive set of subsidies and research initiatives are needed, focusing on the use of renewable district heating produced from geothermal energy. It is also necessary streamline administrative processes as well as accelerating the procedure to search for and extract geothermal energy.

Given that the Mineral Raw Materials Act (Mineralrohstoffgesetz) only regulates the mining aspects (drilling, piping) of deep geothermal energy projects, there is a lack of specific regulations governing the exploration and extraction of geothermal energy, which is why the law needs to be amended. Less complicated legal framework conditions will enable faster and more targeted investments when it comes to expanding the use of deep geothermal energy in Austria.

Further information

Your contact person

Tobias Rieder
Tobias Rieder

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District Heating
Renewable Energy Act
National Energy and Climate Plan

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